The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
PRODUCTION at Chinese firm, Ming Chang Sino-Africa Mining Investments’ lime factory in Bubi District, Matabeleland North came to a halt last week after an acrimonious row between management and its employees over poor working conditions and low remuneration.
Workers at the lime plant staged a two-day sit in on Monday and Tuesday protesting against lack of proper protective wear, harassment and poor remuneration. The company extracts limestone for the production of lime and also does quarry stone mining for the production of construction aggregate.
“We had been complaining for some time to the management to address the issue of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). We are being forced to work without proper protective wear exposing ourselves to hazardous fumes and risking losing our limbs or being burnt. We are constantly subjected to insults and sometimes assault by some management staff, as if this is not enough we are receiving a paltry $7,50 per hour per shift of nine hours, which is way below the prescribed lawfully rates,” said one of the workers on condition of anonymity in fear of victimisation.
Lawfully prescribe rates for the lowest paid miners are pegged at $18,00 per hour per shift of nine hours.
The workers said after their two-day sit in management barred them from operating any equipment or carrying out duties at the plant for three days.
Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers’ Union organising secretary Mr Tarisai Mhiko confirmed receiving a report from workers at the lime manufacturing plant.
“We received a call from Bubi Rural District Council that employees at the mine had staged a two-day sit in at the company’s premises in protest against poor remuneration and inhuman working conditions as well as lack of protective clothing wear.
“The workers are claiming that they are being forced to work without protective gear such as dust mask, overalls and safety shoes. We registered the issue some time last year with the National Employment Council but the date for the sitting hasn’t been set yet,” he said.
When Sunday News Business visited the plant on Friday workers could be seen milling around near the factory’s entrance and one of the Chinese management staffer referred all questions to the company’s lawyer Ms Gamuchirai Dzitiro of Mutumbwa, Mugabe and Partners.
Contacted for a comment Ms Dzitiro refuted the allegations levelled against her clients but stated that the employees had embarked on an unlawful collective job action.
“What I am aware of is that there is a pending labour dispute against employees, which is pending. There is an unlawful strike, which matter the Ministry of (Public Service) Labour and Social Welfare is seized with . . . An employer is complaining here that these people have stopped work and I am losing money because of this unlawful job action. At this point what we will just advice our client is not to make any comment on this matter because it’s sub judice, it’s now before a court, a competent labour tribunal,” she said.
Ms Dzitiro said she was unaware of the ill-treatment being perpetrated by the company’s management as no formal complaint has been filed against them.
“We don’t have a single labour case, which is pending in which they (employees) complained of ill-treatment but if they have a case number of the pending case whereby they placed such grievances before a labour officer, I would be pleased to go through it but to our knowledge the company never received any such form of complaint,” she said.
The company started operation in June last year and employs over 70 people.